Dubai grew from the desert in the last two decades. Everything is massive and in the record books. While the New York Times will give you 36 hours in one place, we at Somewhere Or Bust give you 37. Without further ado, here are the best things to do in Dubai if you only have 37 hours. (Since the New York Times’ 36 Hours never adds up to a day and a half, neither will this, if you’re keeping score at home.)
The Best Things to do in Dubai in 37 Hours
Friday 9:00 am: Shop The Souks
Unlike most Arab markets, where the men use grabby tactics to get you into their stalls and it’s a battle of wits on the negotiation front, the Dubai souks are much more tempered. Vendors at the textile souk will politely call, “I have very nice copy of handbag for you sir,” not even attempting to pass off their knock-offs for the real thing. After you get your clothing, head across the river to the photogenic, traditional spice market and the impressive gold souk, which features a collection of 300-plus storefronts with competitively-priced gold and some precious-metal marvels, like the world’s largest gold ring that sits in one shop out in the open.
The best way to get across is by boarding an abras, a traditional boat that will cost you one dollar. If shopping is not your thing, take in more of the city by stretching your dollar and taking the abras all the way downstream.
Friday 12:00 pm: Eat Camel at the Local House
Dining options at the Local House include a rooftop, a shady courtyard, or air-conditioned eating at tables or on the floor. With all of the camel sculptures and humped artwork, it might feel sort of strange to order camel meat, but the Local House has a delicious recipe for tenderizing this notoriously tough meat.
Friday 2:00 pm: Walk Through Old Dubai
The old city has everything from artisans to mosques to a cultural center. There are beautiful murals at the end of some alleys and the architecture itself is a piece of art, fusing together both coral and sand.
Friday 4:00 pm: Dubai’s Desert
One of the best things to do in Dubai is actually outside the city. Travel by four-wheel drive over red and gold sand dunes with Desert Gate’s stuntmen who spin out tires and tackle massive drops. The exhilarating ride ends at a Bedouin camp, where neglected snowboards have been turned into sandboards for dune-riding, attractive camels walk in boring circles, and a sumptuous feast is served up with festive performances from a belly dancer and an illuminated spinner. The festivities last all night.
Saturday 8:00 am: Heat Up on the Gulf
Head over to Palm Jumeirah Island and take a dip in the salty Gulf. The heat is tolerable at this time of day and the beaches are empty.
Saturday 10:00 am: Cool Off on the Slopes
While the skiing and snowboarding at Ski Dubai could never compete with natural slopes, the irony of snow inside a mall when the temperatures outside is capable of frying eggs on sidewalks is worthwhile. Despite the irony, the slopes have two fun runs, equipped with little launch pads and terrain parks. Plus, you’ll get a kick out of watching the locals ride the lifts for their entertainment. Ski Dubai also has penguins on display, sleigh riding, and Zorb rolling.
Saturday 1:00 pm: Lunch at Fibber Magee’s
At only seventeen years old, this is the oldest pub in Dubai. Join the rowdy expats for some Irish vibes, affordable beer, and rare serving of pork, if you’re craving pig.
Saturday 3:00 pm: Standing at the Top of the World in the Burj Khalifa
Ride the fastest elevator in the world to the top of the tallest tower in the world to see how Dubai has transformed from endless desert to moneyed metropolis.
Saturday 5:45 pm: Standing Below the Top of the World
Outside the Dubai Mall, or in a seat at Souk al Batir, watch the fountains shoot up to over 150 meters, which is quite impressive so long as you don’t contrast it with the Burj Khalifa. The fountains go off at 6:00 pm.
Saturday 7:00 pm: Up High At Night
After checking out the views from atop the Burj Khalifa, head over to the JW Marriott, the tallest hotel in the world, and enjoy a drink at Vault Bar on the hotel’s top floor. There, you’ll add the Burj Khalifa to the view and maybe you’ll get a quicker buzz thanks to the altitude.
Sunday 9:00 am: Stroll the Marina
The Marina has nightlife and shopping, but is also a great place for a stroll to marvel at some of the city’s other tal towers. There, you’ll find the world’s tallest residential building and the world’s tallest twisted tower.
Sunday 12:00 am: Sunday Brunch
Sunday brunch in Dubai is like Sunday football in America. It’s a big deal. Set aside your appetite and a good portion of your day for this feast.
Sunday 5:00 pm: Sunset in Front of the Burj Al Arab
Before heading off, enjoy a sunset on the beach with the seven-star Burj Al Arab as your back drop.